Why 2016 Is a Glorious Year for Employment Law and Worker Protections

Photo of a man being firedCalifornia lawmakers passed more than a dozen laws last year that will help protect workers against unequal pay, employer retaliation for whistleblowing and wrongful termination. In addition, the California Labor Commissioner (CLC) has been given more teeth by lawmakers to respond to wage theft. Some of these new laws went into effect on January, 1st, others will be instituted later this year, but here is what will change for 2016.

  • Wage theft: Under Senate Bill 588, the CLC can now fine employers up to $150,000 for failing to pay workers. If employers still don’t pay, the CLC can place liens on properties owned by employers and keep them from operating in California.
  • Gender equality: California’s Fair Pay Act requires employers to pay workers with identical responsibilities the same wages under most circumstances, regardless of job titles. We recently wrote a blog on the Fair Pay Act that goes into more detail.
  • Workplace discrimination: Under Assembly Bill 987, employers cannot retaliate against workers who ask for reasonable accommodations for disabilities or religious beliefs. In addition, Senate Bill 600 ensures employers cannot discriminate against workers based on immigration status or language.
  • Whistleblower protections: Assembly Bill 1509 protects the family members of whistleblowers from employer retaliation.
  • Wrongful termination: Workers at companies with more than 25 employees can now find schools and health care providers for their children without worrying about being fired. Taking time off work to handle family affairs is a new protection offered by Senate Bill 579.

What Other Worker Protections Exist in California?

These are only a handful of the laws that went into effect several weeks ago. Additional laws will strengthen state disability and unemployment insurance. Other laws will place limits on wage garnishments. By passing so many worker protections in one year, California will become an example for other states to follow.